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Apparently from Ultrafacts.tumblr.com, with a tweet version retweeted 137 times:

In 1916 an amendment was proposed to the Constitution that all acts of war would be put to a national vote. Anyone voting yes had to register as a volunteer for service in the United States Army.

Was this amendment proposed?

I'm not an expert on US law, so I don't know what "proposed" means.

I tried doing a Google search, but got a lot of user-generated content.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Articuno gives a source showing it was suggested by a group of citizens. This answer addresses action taken in Congress.

I found this very informative blog post by Robert Brammer, a librarian with the Library of Congress. It appears that several pieces of legislation were introduced in the 64th Congress (1915-1917) that would have required a national referendum on declarations of war, and one of them would indeed have amended the constitution. It was introduced in the Senate as S.J. Res 10 and in the House of Representatives as H.J. Res 128. However, it contains no provision requiring military service for "yes" voters. (Neither do any of the non-amendment bills described in the blog post; I read them all.)

For those who cannot easily read 98-year-old scanned documents, I've transcribed the joint resolutions here.

S.J. RES. 10.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

December 7, 1915.

Mr. Owen introduced the following joint resolution; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

JOINT RESOLUTION

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which, when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States, shall be valid to all intents and purposes as a part of the Constitution:

"Article XVII. No war of aggression shall be waged by the Army or Navy of the United States, except upon a declaration of war by the Congress of the United States, ratified and approved by a majority vote of the majority of the legal votes cast upon the question in a majority of the congressional districts of the United States."

H. J. RES. 128.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

January 31, 1916.

Mr. Church introduced the following joint resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and ordered to be printed.

JOINT RESOLUTION

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following amendment be proposed to the legislatures of the several States as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which, when ratified by three-fourths of said legislatures, shall be valid as part of the Constitution, namely:

"Article I. Sec. 8, Division 11. To declare war in cases of invasion or threatened invasion of the United States, or any of its insular possessions, by a foreign power, or in cases of insurrection or revolution within the United States, or any of its insular possessions, and in other cases where the matter of declaring war has first been submitted to the citizens of the United States at a special election called for that purpose and more than half of the citizens voting at said election have declared themselves in favor of declaring said war. It shall also have the power to grant letters of marque and reprisal and make rules concerning captures on land and water."

(Contextual note: Article I, Sec. 8 lists the "enumerated powers" of Congress; the original, and still current, text of Division 11 simply reads "To declare War, grant letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water". So as it stands, Congress may declare war unilaterally; the amendment would have restricted this unilateral power to cases of actual invasion or insurrection, and required a referendum otherwise.)

Article V of the Constitution lays out the procedure for amendments. They must be "proposed" by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress, then "ratified" by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states. (There is an alternative provision for proposing amendments via a convention; it has never been used.) The above measure does not appear in Wikipedia's list of proposed but unratified amendments (there have only been six), so evidently it was never "proposed" in this formal sense. (If someone can find a more authoritative source than Wikipedia they are welcome to edit it in.) The italicized text about "two-thirds of each House concurring" appears to be hypothetical, describing what would be the case if it were to pass.

The blog post does not discuss the progress of any of the bills mentioned above; I suspect few if any of them ever made it out of committee to a floor vote. Of course, if any had actually been enacted into law, we'd presumably know about it! If anyone wants to know for sure what became of these bills, they are welcome to browse through the 1,577 pages of blurry text that constitute the Congressional Record for 1916 and let us know what they find.

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Good answer. I believe "proposed" is also used in a colloquial sense, since wikipedia says over 10000 constitutional ammendments have been proposed. senate.gov/pagelayout/reference/three_column_table/… –  user5582 Jul 25 at 7:20
    
@Articuno: Yes, the ambiguity is unfortunate. –  Nate Eldredge Jul 25 at 7:33

This is true. See: http://www.nytimes.com/1987/08/03/us/washinton-talk-letters-to-congress-amend-the-constitution-let-us-count-the-ways.html

The petition, sent to Washington by a group of Nebraska residents in 1916, proposed an amendment requiring a national referendum before Congress could declare war. To dissuade votes for war, the petition proposed that all those who voted in favor of the United States entering World War I be willing to enlist.

I haven't been able to track down whether it was actually heard in congress, though.

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